Post-Boom Bubble Businesses Rise From the Ashes

Monday, August 9, 2010
Posted in category Boom-Bubble Phenomenon

I chuckle at the unsustainable business models that materialized during the Boom, only to go Bust shortly after the Downslide, only to sometimes return – in worse form – after the media hype and government lies sold the masses on the story that we are on the way back to economic prosperity. Crocs have been dying. PB Loco is all but smothered. Cold Stone had to move in with Tim Horton to keep some stores open. Cereality died before it reached puberty. And pricey, huge cupcakes are emerging as a frontrunner for all that’s imbecilic in the world.

Now there’s a great, new place to blow your fiat money by using your credit cards before they close out your account – Sweet Frog. Yogurt taps for adults. And itty bitty pieces ‘n things to put on top of your kiddie treat. Candy, cereal, sprinkles, agave syrup(!), etc. And the interior of the place looks like a child’s bedroom or daycare center playroom. Or even a dumbed-down public schoolroom. As is often the case, bubble business tend toward the juvenilization of the amusement-seeking masses who like to be treated like children and entertained by childish services that cater to that need.

Sweet Frog (next door to Escafé) has ten yogurt taps. Pick your size and your flavor – mango, cake batter, cookies and cream, blueberry, New York cheesecake – and fill it or mix it up as you please. Then comes the fun part: the toppings smorgasbord. Sweet Frog has pretty much every type of candy imaginable, a delicious assortment of fresh fruits, and more unique options such as Agave syrup and cereal. The best part is you get to assemble your own, so no more feeling shameful as you ask the server to add a few more snickers, please. Your cup is weighed at checkout for 39 cents an ounce.

And most notably, this cup of sugar topped with sugar is ……. er, low-fat. Weee! Gotta get that sound bite in!

Thanks to Skip Oliva for the tip. To understand the effects fiat inflation has on society and behavior, see Jorg Guido Hulsmann’s Cultural and Spiritual Legacy of Fiat Inflation and Thomas Mann’s Disorder and Early Sorrow.

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34 Responses to Post-Boom Bubble Businesses Rise From the Ashes

  1. Alex says:

    August 9th, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    The cupcakes may take a little longer to die, Karen. There are many of these “gourmet cupcake” shops in my neck of the woods and the “alternative” press is always running stories on some new varieties (“try the gourmet bacon bits-and-chicken liver vanilla cupcake with decadent honey frosting!”) The actor Vince Vaughn recently stopped at one of these places and posed for photos with the owner while filming in my neighborhood. Maybe I’m becoming an old fogey, but the 20 and 30-somethings seem to be especially prone to this sort of mindless consumption.

  2. dean says:

    August 10th, 2010 at 7:42 am

    Times Square Gets Pop-Tarts StorePOSTED: Monday, August 9, 2010
    NEW YORK — One of Kellogg Co.’s most popular brands is popping up in Times Square on Tuesday at Pop-Tarts World, with more than 3,000 square feet dedicated to toaster pastries.
    Customers will be able to eat Pop-Tarts “sushi,” order a customized pastry or create a custom box filled with a mix of their favorite flavors. They can suggest new types of Pop-Tarts, select a Pop-Tarts T-shirt made by specialty artists or get “frosted” and “wrapped in foil” by a light show… 

  3. dean says:

    August 10th, 2010 at 7:46 am

  4. Skip Oliva says:

    August 10th, 2010 at 8:32 am

    I would add that within a few blocks’ walk of this yogurt store, there’s also an ice cream parlor, a gelato store, and a cupcake bakery. You wonder where the market demand is coming from for all these places.

  5. Michael says:

    August 10th, 2010 at 9:15 am

    @Alex, it’s the same mindless consumption that drives 20- and 30-something women to buy overpriced Coach and Louis Vuitton handbags. Again, another industry that simply wouldn’t exist in the absence of a credit-fueled boom.

    And who came up with the name “Sweet Frog”? What a horrible brand name. I give them two years before filing Chapter 7.

  6. Bill L says:

    August 10th, 2010 at 11:39 am

    LOL I agree with ‘mindless consumption’ and will until I become the owner of one or two or three of said shoppes or I get an urge for cupcakes or yogurt or… Perception os everything. :D

  7. Sarah says:

    August 10th, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Karen, I’ve enjoyed reading your site for a few months now and really like your verve– most days. This seems like so much contrarianism for its own sake. A special treat of frozen yogurt every once in a while is a small pleasure, made that much more pleasurable when you get to customize your own sundae in a fun, silly environment. It may not be the best possible business model, and it’s very definitely trendy, but it’s also harmlessly enjoyable.

    I sort of hate that my first comment here is negative, because I really do dig you on most topics, but wow, not everyone who enjoys a froyo now and then is an infantalized, thoughtless automaton waiting to have the next trend hosed down his or her throat, low-fat or otherwise.

  8. Robert Mayer says:

    August 10th, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    Karen, I’m sure you’re gonna have a field day with this one!

  9. liberranter says:

    August 10th, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    What gets me about places like this –and I’m thinking of Cold Stone Creamery in particular here– is the utterly lackadaisical, apathetic, attitudinous “service’ one almost always gets from the innumerate, ADHD-affected twenty-something employees, creatures that act as if you OWE them your patronage. (I had never set foot inside of a CSC before, but my grandson wanted to try their ice cream, so I said ‘what the hell, I’ll try anything once.” Never, EVER again.). Then again, they’re not much different from the employees of the established, non-bubble-created businesses out there these days, most whom seem to have adopted the attitude of “let me treat you like shit, or go ahead and go down the street and let my competitor treat you like shit. Makes no difference to me.”

    Welcome to the “market” economy, 21st Century style.

  10. Karen De Coster says:

    August 10th, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    Robert – Lew Rockwell told me about this today…….waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!! Sick, sick, sick, sick.

  11. Karen De Coster says:

    August 10th, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    Sarah – sorry to offend you, but everything about this place is juvenile. Did you note the decor looks like a schoolhouse playroom? I seriously ask – does that bother you? Does it bother you that _everywhere you turn_, this is becoming the norm? My report is not about this one place, it’s one of many, many observances over the last 6+ years. It’s mostly a “running topic” for me. Here’s one of MANY of my posts on this topic: this should help give you some background to my current post?

    I am working on putting together some kind of series of articles, or an archive, because this topic makes more sense when people understand the “bigger picture.”

  12. Karen De Coster says:

    August 10th, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    Haha – loved how people posted the Pop-Tarts thing. Blogged on it today.

  13. Michael says:

    August 10th, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Phew, I thought that “Pop Tarts” thing was going to be *designer* Pop Tarts or something. I didn’t see the light show coming though. Ha!

  14. CMN says:

    August 10th, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Frozen yogurt has been around for decades. 30 years ago I was getting it as a kid and really enjoyed it, more so than ice cream. Many of those shops disappeared, largely, I think, due to labor intensive nature of the business and the lack of any chains. With yogurt taps and self-serve toppings, they’ve reduced the labor costs and have found a way to offer more yogurt varieties with less effort. The tap system also aids in reducing the cost of refigeration over the traditional ice box styles of the typical ice cream shop.

    It isn’t just fiat money that has led to greater consumption, it’s also the increase productivity through automation that has led to cheaper goods and efficient service. The things my grandparents could buy were far more expensive, after adjusting for inflation, than they are today.

  15. CMN says:

    August 10th, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    I just want to add that yes – I find the juvenile stuff offensive, especially if the target is adults. There are several frozen yogurt tap style restaurants in my area, and a few of them cater more to the school crowd, but none of them are decorated in anything but clean white and some accent colors.

  16. Robert Lallier says:

    August 10th, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    I saw a link to here in a similar rant of yours about PopTartWorld on Lew Rockwell’s site. I would point out that “bread and circuses,” a term you invoked with reference to the PopTartWorld post, refers to the government spending money on public welfare and entertainment, not private spending per se. One man’s extravagance is another’s worthwhile diversion or entertainment. What matters is whether investment is being made on the basis of accurate information on the availability of capital and the patterns of consumption. Sometimes, you have the habit for substituting your personal aesthetics for economic judgement. Cases in point: P.B. Loco actually makes several good flavors of peanut butter; it is only the cafe franchise idea which was based upon a less than workable business plan. Your previous opinions on Coldstone Creamery reflect your own assessment that the price of the product does not merit a premium over the price of cheaper brands or grocery store icecream, but that again is personal preference and not objective economics talking. The Coldstone franchise in my town is quite popular, apparently profitable, and I personally think the price of the product (not the ambiance) is worth the difference between what Coldstone charges and what, for example Dairy Queen or Baskin Robbins would charge for their product. There’s no accounting for taste.

  17. Robert says:

    August 10th, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    almost makes me nostalgic for the porn and filth of the old times square.  

  18. James F says:

    August 11th, 2010 at 4:07 am

    [.....not everyone who enjoys a froyo now and then.....]

    I don’t know if it’s acceptable to comment on a comment, but I absolutely -must- say: please tell me the word “froyo” is one that you yourself made up just now and is not a word that actual adults use on a widespread basis.
    I don’t seem to hang out with any adults that consume things like frozen yogurt, (they tough it out with some old-fashioned concoction called “ice cream”) so please excuse my ignorance in this matter.

    I ask because, frankly, “froyo” is one of the lamest-sounding made-up words I’ve heard in a long time. Seeing as how this is America, that’s really saying something.

    The word “lappy” was quite despair-inducing enough (what, people nowadays just can’t spare the mental bandwidth for the six letters of “laptop” vs. the five of “lappy?”). If “froyo” is, in fact, a widely-used word in the America of 2010, (is it?) I may have to start taking a closer look at the possibility of emigrating. No fooling: it’s -that- lame.

    (To be clear: it’s the word I have problems with, not the person who wrote it, okay? Peace, love, and absolutely astonishing regularity to all!)

  19. dan says:

    August 11th, 2010 at 6:00 am

    your personal preferences and cultural tics are not the extension of your economic and political views, no matter how correct the latter may be.

    Ease up on the randian style “my taste uber alles.”

    I mean it’s nice you think you know which low time preference micro-rewards younger generations like to award themselves with are bunk but frankly you don’t.

    P.S. juvenilization is a positive in evolution. it leads to greater friendliness and trading.

  20. Karen De Coster says:

    August 11th, 2010 at 7:14 am

    Nothing Randian about this, Dan. Learn before you speak. And learn to write properly. I’m not into Rand, and not a Randian. Hello?

    You say, “I mean it’s nice you think you know which low time preference micro-rewards younger generations like to award themselves with are bunk but frankly you don’t.”

    Your statements, quite frankly, are poorly written and I can’t even comprehend your point. At all. The above comment is tortuous. You only post to attack me. Any more of that, and I’ll reject the asinine posts from here on out. My posting your rambling is an embarrassment to you …… which is why I approved it.

  21. Karen De Coster says:

    August 11th, 2010 at 7:17 am

    Robert – I know what the frick Bread & Circuses is. Please don’t “point out” your stupid-ass comments to me. Have you READ my zillion posts on the underlying cause of the bubble economy? Government. Hello? Also, “Bubble” and “Boom” denote the underlying issue, correct? Or did you miss that?

    I’ve written on this stuff a million times; I am not pulling it out of my ass. Do your homework before your drop your idiocracy on this blog. If you don’t like my comments because it describes you, go read something else. Don’t come here and make shit up and tell me how offended you are because I described you.

  22. Michael says:

    August 11th, 2010 at 9:11 am

    @Dan: “P.S. juvenilization is a positive in evolution. it leads to greater friendliness and trading.” How, pray tell, does the regression of adults into mindless children in anyway foster “friendliness and trading”? It transforms them into mindless wastes-of-space. They become perfect prey for self-aggrandizing politicians and their bankster owners.

    These posts sort of remind me of the other Distraction Du Jour: ‘Silly Bands’. Every high school senior has half their forearm covered in these stupid plastic bracelets, when unfolded turn into letters, numbers, or animal silhouettes: Oops, I just realized they’re “Silly Bandz” and not “Silly Bands”. Sure, my 3-year-old has a few, but why young adults attach value to these things is beyond my understanding. I guess it’s another ‘Bubble Business’ candidate.

    I’m actually puzzled why Karen hasn’t directed her wrath on this nonsense yet.

  23. George says:

    August 11th, 2010 at 9:20 am

    These businesses come and go. All in all I do not know that Cold Stone or Sweet Frog are any worse than Carvel or other brands from 30+ years ago. The Empire of the talking mouse, the burger places with the clown or king. I think the silliness can be traced to the beginnings of the Republic and Santa Claus.

    In certain ways Cold Stone and Sweet Frog are opposites. Cold Stone being very labor intensive, while Sweet Frog is buffet style.

  24. Iluvatar says:

    August 11th, 2010 at 11:46 am


    Just had to add to the “fun” here (fray really).

    Last time I ate ice cream (really sherbet) was about 41 years ago.

    Couldn’t identify with ANY of the goof-ball marketing ploys mentioned (never even SAW them). Pretty out of touch, huh?

    Thank god for small mercies!

    Looks like spartan lifestyles and ~”primal” eating has some neat side benefits, LOL!

    And, oh btw, “juvenilization” is NOT the same thing as having access to playful instincts and emotional availability – which are the sine qua non to true adulthood. Being juvenile carries with it no concept of responsibility.

    You get no extra points from me being a goof ball buying that wonderfully toxic food…

  25. Sarah says:

    August 11th, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    Karen, please understand I’m not offended. And I’m back reading today and looking at things. But I think our experiences with the trend have been very different. The couple places I’ve been have not been at all juvenalized. Rather, they look like Design within Reach catalogs with a bit of color– all white and chrome and birch paneling, with the occasional pop of green or purple or orange. I just don’t like the idea that the very good point you’re trying to make about fiat economy may be lost in what seems like deliberate contentiousness. (“my tastes uber alles” as dude up there said, or attempted to say, or something).

    And James F., hi there. I didn’t invent the term froyo, but give me a few hours and I’ll be back with a link all about it.

  26. Gabe says:

    August 11th, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    I’m not convinced, firstly because the frozen yogurt shop in my town is older than I am, and my grandmothers frequented it. That suggests the business can be run for the long-term in a variety of economic conditions. Second, all the criticisms equally apply to countless other restaurants and service businesses, many of which have also weathered the years.

  27. craig schultz says:

    August 11th, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    More power to those getting people with too much time and money to part with it. I wouldn’t waste mine on goofy stuff like this, but I can’t tell others what to do. I do wish some of this frivolous spending would be directed at libertarian causes, like LRC.

  28. Karen De Coster says:

    August 11th, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    Craig – sigh, sigh, sigh – these people DON’T have too much money (they are choking on debt), and they have too much time because they are bored, restless losers with no life – typical wards of the state.

    Oh, and please do make distinction between me drawing correlations and putting forth a theory and vetting out a causation …. and …… “telling people what to do.” WTF? These comments are getting so goddamn stupid that it’s becoming time to stop posting them.

  29. Karen De Coster says:

    August 11th, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    Sarah – it’s called being a cultural critic. it’s been done before me, and it’s being done, now, by many others. The fact that, as an economist, I can call out the underlying problems and make the very obvious connections, just makes my view more unique. So unique that people become incensed and offended. The emails I am getting confirm that. Wish y’all could read them …..

  30. Iluvatar says:

    August 12th, 2010 at 11:17 am


    Can you post some of the “worser” ones?

    We can only “feel your pain” in a sympathetic way.

    Posting might make it more “empathetic”.

    You could do a cut/paste into a post right here…

  31. Sarah says:

    August 13th, 2010 at 11:24 am

  32. Matthew T. says:

    August 19th, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    Hi Karen:

    I know you are not a big fan of crocs but I finally found a good use for them.  Our family went on a lake vacation and we all brought one pair of shoes for our feet — crocs.  They were perfect for walking in the lake (lots of fish hooks and glass on the bottom) and dried up pretty quickly to wear on land.  However, I would have to say for normal, day-in, day-out wear, the shoes are pretty ugly!  ;-)


    Matt T.

  33. Shannon says:

    August 21st, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    Crocs are good, as long as they go unseen ;)

  34. » Is There a Frozen Yogurt Bubble in Charlottesville? Skip's 9th Blog says:

    September 23rd, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    [...] Karen DeCoster, a libertarian accountant who tracks the rise-and-fall of consumer fads, offered this description of Sweet Frog, one of the early entries into Charlottesville’s yogurt boom, back in 2010: [...]

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